An outbreak of anthrax in the Jwana Game Reserve in Jwaneng, Botswana, was first observed when three cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) died of the disease in November 2004. In the aftermath of this event, banked serum samples collected from 23 wild-caught cheetahs were examined, by the inhibition enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA), for antibodies to the protective antigen (PA) of Bacillus anthracis. Of the 23 cheetahs, 16 regularly accessed the reserve. Antibodies to PA were detected in one cheetah collected in May 2004, indicating the disease was occurring well before it was first noticed. This appears to be the first demonstration of naturally acquired anthrax antibodies in cheetahs. The finding of one antibody-positive animal amongst at least 16 potentially exposed individuals is consistent with existing reports that it is uncommon for cheetahs to develop natural immunity to anthrax.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3